Archive for July, 2013

Tiny Furniture

Lena Dunham’s debut doesn’t quite work for me.

It’s essentially the prototype for her HBO show. That a 30 minute sitcom doesn’t work as a 100 minute film is neither revelatory nor surprising.

And yet I very much enjoyed the last ten minutes of the film. So much so that it nearly redeemed the whole thing for me. In a stunningly non-judgmental moment (that seems to be the theme of these lovingly made post-2010 indies) Aura (Lena Dunham’s not so subtle foil) dialogues with her mom about who she is and where she’s going.

It is, for a woman who has begun a career on a sort of self-servingly narcissistic deconstruction of her own culture and family values, very mature. Extremely affecting.

She and her mother simply discuss their choices. Men they’ve been with, slept with, wanted but did not have. Whereas Dunham’s character in Girls seems ultimately and futilely stuck within herself, Aura actually seems like she may grow out of early 20s ennui. Her (real-life) mother admits as much when she assures Aura that she will, despite all possible evidence, become more successful than her mother (if less successful than her driven, maniacal [also real-life] sister).

It’s often said that comedy is harder than drama. True enough (I dare you to try it), but I also can’t help but feel that Girls short-sells a bit of what makes the end of Tiny Furniture so strong. The sitcom (which, if anything, defines the second season of Girls) is quicksand for character development. I’m unsure where, if anywhere, the characters of the HBO show can ever be expected to go.

I know, if only slightly, that Aura will one day grow up into a woman with journals much like those of her mother. Lena Dunham may as well. Hannah Horvath, I fear, may never make it past her mid twenties.

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I don’t know that I should like Wallander. The BBC adaptation can be, let’s face it, dreadfully slow. And in the procedural drama department of all places, slow kills.

Yet it’s not really the crimes that interest me about the show. It’s the nagging, aching depression of detective Kurt Wallander. The first episode of series 1 didn’t terribly impress me, but it was a collection of moments in the second episode that captivated my attention.

While at coffee with a woman (such a misadventure for Kurt) he calmly states that he’s not sure if there’s any order to the seemingly violent and helpless world portrayed in the show. Rather than comforting, the moment is utterly bleak. Yet it’s also whole, emotive, seductive in its earnest nature. Underpinning this drama is the sense that, yes, Kurt’s anxieties are bitingly real. In a world of hyper-confident cops he’s the guy hanging back and thinking about the way the chips really fall. Or else, the one character who truly seems paralyzed by the psychological guilt of the job. Perhaps, then, his crisis becomes more than pedantic?

Wallander is a show that threatens to be so good, but always seems to re-neg on the promise. I wonder, then, if it isn’t paralyzed by the very same sense of grief that limits its protagonist.

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Somewhere is an odd duckling of a film. Johnny Marco, celebrity star and generally absentee dad, finds his world in a tizzy when he’s asked to take care of his young daughter (seemingly) for the first time in his life.

It’s a film that walks a numb, perpetually hung-over line that will sail post most viewers or provoke them to tune out due to its propensity for pretension.

One moment really stood out to me. It’s very early on, so don’t worry about spoilers. Johnny is driving in his car between shoots for his new film. This is the sort of aimless behavior his life amounts to between his mornings of press coverage and evenings with strippers.

A woman rides up next to him in a sports car. Johnny has a pretty nice car too, a testament to his virility and general self indulgence. The opening of the film features that same car (which will eventually break down) aimlessly running around a racetrack.

The woman pulls away after the two make eyes. Johnny contemplates driving his own way, but then shifts lanes. He’s chasing after this woman. Some random woman who gave him a coy look at an intersection, and he shifts the entire focus of his day to drive in the same direction as this lady.

In a film which bemoans the very deep addictive tendencies of this man, it’s one of the subtlest, clearest characterizations of character you’ll find. It’s not judgmental, either, it’s a simple take of a man pushed in the wrong direction by desire.

If you’ve ever experienced (or witnessed) hyper-sexuality (or narcissism, for what it’s worth) you’ll know what that pull is like. It’s ugly, and brutal, and says so much about what it is to want.

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